Filé for Free

Most folks who like filé in their gumbo add a sprinkle just before the first bite. And, good filé can make a mediocre gumbo great. The best filé I’ve ever tasted comes from Kreole (yep, with a “K”), a hamlet about as far south as you can get and still be on land in Jackson County, Mississippi. My grandmother, who lived there, never made filé though she probably knew how. Instead, she procured it in a circuitous manner. A savvy shopper, she loved to bargain and devised a way to get the best filé for free without even picking or providing the sassafras leaves. First, she traded things (like her chicken eggs, figs or oysters) to friends for commodities – the early equivalent of food stamps. Then she’d barter the coveted commodities — sweet cream butter, cheese, flour or sugar — for filé. The best came from Kreole’s Doodie Inez, who bottled and corked the filé in eight-ounce glass Coke bottles. Refrigerated, that filé could last for years, its richness fermenting like fine wine. In fact, my last bottle of filé, outlasted my grandmother and two refrigerators. It doesn’t take much filé when it’s the real stuff.

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About thegumbodiaries

On the search for the perfect gumbo!
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